10 Reasons to Visit Downtown Lancaster, PA
Rich with history, shops, fine dining, and more.
When you think of Lancaster County, you may picture lush, green farmland with horse and buggies trotting by, fresh produce, and a relaxing pace of life. While those things can be found here, there’s so much more to Lancaster. In the middle of the farmland sits Lancaster City, which some would describe as hip, cool, and up-and-coming. But don’t just take our word for it – Forbes named Lancaster as one of the “10 Coolest U.S. Cities to Visit in 2018.”
1] Arts & Theatre
Lancaster City is full of passionate makers and musicians, just waiting to share their craft. For fine arts, head to Gallery Row where artisans are displaying and selling their works. If you happen to be in town on the First Friday of the month, galleries and shops are open extra late for art lovers to browse and experience Lancaster’s art scene.
Want to catch a show or some awesome live music? Theaters and performance venues, both big and small, can be found throughout the city, putting on live music, Broadway-caliber musicals, play, and classical performances.
2] Awesome Activities
Whether you’re traveling with the family or as a couple, Downtown Lancaster is filled with spots to fill your day with fun. For the couple, challenge yourself to an Escape Room or experience the city and its history through an interactive (and tasty) food tour.
For the family, head over to the baseball field where the Lancaster’s minor league baseball team, the Barnstormers, play for an evening game with fireworks, or spend the day at the North Museum of Nature & Science or Lancaster Science Factory. Both are great museums geared towards hands-on learning for kids. If your family prefers arts and crafts, Pottery Works and Beadworks & Gem Dem offer a creative outlet with pottery painting and jewelry making.
3] The Food
Breakfast, lunch or dinner – Downtown Lancaster’s dining scene has never been better! Start your morning off with a cup of coffee at Passenger Coffee – named the best coffee in Pennsylvania by Food & Wine – or grab a tasty brunch to kick start your day of exploring.
When lunch and dinner roll around, there is no shortage of options – from unique international spots to phenomenal fine dining. On those sunny days, many spots offer outdoor dining options where diners can enjoy delicious bites and the beautiful weather.
4] The History
As one of the oldest inland cities in America and serving as the U.S. Capital for a day, Lancaster is filled with stories of events and people from the past. Dive into these stories as you view Lancaster’s architecture, featuring buildings with various styles – from Georgian and Federal to Modern. History is just waiting to be shared at historic locations throughout the city with a walking tour or a visit to President James Buchanan’s home and Lancaster’s historic society museum.
5] Lancaster Central Market
Featuring history, community vibes, fresh produce, and popular local goodies, Lancaster Central Market, America’s oldest continuously operating farmers market, is a Downtown “must-visit.” Be sure to visit on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday when market is open to wander the aisles for locally sourced fruits and vegetables, baked goods, freshly cut flowers, and something tasty for breakfast or lunch. Some stands have been passed down generation-to-generation, while others are bringing new, unique offerings to the historic market.
While you’re there, don’t forget to look up – the market building dates back to 1889 and features stunning architectural details.
6] Events Galore
In addition to daily happenings, Lancaster’s special events add an extra element of excitement to the city. From the monthly First and Third Friday events featuring art and live music, to the annual Lancaster Craft Beerfest in late August and Roots & Blues in February, consider planning your trip around these festive occasions. Be sure to check out our events calendar while planning to learn more.
7] Ales, Spirits and Even Mead
Some of Lancaster’s best beer can be found Downtown from brewers like Lancaster Brewing Company (known for their Milk Stout, Strawberry Wheat and Hop Hog IPA), Spring House Brewing Company (specializing in flavorful concoctions like the Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout), and Wacker Brewing Company (brewing German-style beers with roots from the 1800s) – each with their own unique story and brews.
If spirits and cocktails are more your style, Downtown Lancaster has plenty of those too. From Thistle Finch Distillery who is distilling their own rye whiskey, vodka and gin, to a number of restaurants creating artisan cocktails with locally sourced ingredients and house made infusions.
May we interest you in a little mead? This traditional alcoholic beverage is being brewed by Meduseld Meadery here in Lancaster, using honey, water, and yeast. While you’re there, try your hand at ax throwing in their indoor throwing range.
What fun is driving when you’re on vacation? In Lancaster City, walkability is key with many of the popular stops within walking distance of each other. Whether you’re wandering down Gallery Row or shopping on the 300 Block of Queen Street, good eats and even more to see and do are just a few blocks away. Parking options are plentiful with reasonably priced lots and garages located in the popular areas of the city.
9] Boutiques & Shopping
How about a little shopping? Lancaster City is home to cute boutiques and shops, whether you’re searching for a special gift or something to remember your trip by. The 300 Block of North Queen Street is a shopping hot spot Downtown, with shops featuring unique gifts, antiques, clothes and jewelry, home décor, and specialty items. Shop local as you’ll find wares made here in Lancaster County by passionate makers.
10] Great Lodging Options
After all this exploring, you’ll need a place to rest up for another day of fun. Downtown Lancaster has great lodging options for this very thing. Boutique hotels like Lancaster Arts Hotel and Cork Factory Hotel provide a restful night’s sleep in uniquely decorated and beautifully renovated rooms.